An extraordinary disconnect in Australian food policy development occurred yesterday.
First, the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) released its report, Australia and Food Security in a Changing World, highlighting among other issues the need for an integrated health, social, economic and environmental response to our food and nutrition challenges.
Second, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) hosted the first meeting of a food policy committee that will lack the capacity to address three of these four critical policy considerations identified in the PMSEIC report.
This missed opportunity for a meaningful food policy approach comes on top of last week’s question time in the Senate. Hansard records that the minister responsible for the Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Portfolio was questioned about his portfolio’s plans to develop a food manufacturing strategy separate to the DAFF food policy plan. The minister was further questioned whether there exists a “silo” mentality to how food issues are addressed among government departments.
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Australia urgently needs a high level government commitment to a coherent food and nutrition policy and not the current approach that results in the most pressing food and nutrition challenges falling between the cracks.
What is needed is a policy that integrates health, social, economic and environmental considerations and is overseen at the highest level within government to enable it to co-ordinate the roles and responsibilities of those government departments that influence components of the food system (health, agriculture, transport, education, industry, finance, environment, etc).